Dear Malin Reese,
On Monday of this week, I read a story and watched an accompanying short documentary about an 8-year-old boy living in London named Owen Hawkins. I haven’t stopped thinking about Owen since and I want you to know his story. He’s a smart, thoughtful and funny kid with two loving parents and a dog named Haatchi that’s his best friend. Beyond that glazed description, Owen does not live a normal life. He’s one of thirty people in the world that lives with a condition called Schwartz-Jampel Syndrome. This means that his muscles never relax. His body is in a constant state of tension. He has little to no balance and he has to get around with a walker or an electric wheelchair. As I mentioned before, his best friend is a dog named Haatchi. Haatchi came into Owen’s life after surviving vicious cruelty at the hands of someone less than human. He was tied to a railway in North London and had his tail and back leg run over by a passing train. He survived for five days before some kind soul found him and saved him. He was eventually adopted by Owen’s parents. Owen and Haatchi are now living their lives, side by side, happy in spite of the hand they’ve been dealt.
Owen’s story has challenged me to feel and examine a variety of personal emotions. Upon first read and viewing, I felt inspired and hopeful that this charming little kid with huge challenges had found his best friend, a dog that made him feel safe and gave him confidence to be seen in front of the world. I posted his story on Monday and told everyone I came across to take the time and soak it in. I made your Mom stop what she was doing on Monday night just so we could watch it together. It was that important to me. I watched the short documentary three more times on Tuesday, which was probably a mistake because I started to feel differently about it. I began to start asking the question “Why?”. Why was Owen born with this condition? Why should he have to struggle with this disease? Why did this poor dog have to endure such physical and emotional trauma before he found safety and love in the arms of an 8-year-old kid? When I start to ask these questions of myself, you complicate things even more. This week I’ve watched you bury your head in books, giggle uncontrollably, stand up in your crib and cry while I flipped off the lights in your room at bedtime and above all else I’ve watched you smile. You are always smiling. Which leads me to another ‘Why” question. Why do your Mom and I get to watch you bloom while a Mom and Dad thousands of miles away have to watch their son grow up in pain, thanking their lucky stars that a dog has given their child a sense of security? It seems unfair.
This letter is turning out to be more of a personal catharsis than anything but I do want you take a few important things away from Owen’s story. First, don’t ever take your health for granted. Be thankful for it and nurture it as best you can. Second, allow yourself to be struck by the humanity and hope that a story like Owen’s elicits. Bottle it up for your own personal reserves and share it with others. Third, don’t be afraid to explore the negative feelings you might have when you run across a story like this. It’s okay to ask “Why” and it’s okay to think that sometimes life is simply unfair. Bottle that feeling up for your own personal reserves so that you are able to look at life realistically. Ultimately, Owen and Haatchi’s story is beautiful and redemptive but it’s also cruel and sad and not explained away easily. Maybe their story is a perfect description of life in general? I don’t have the answer but I hope this story means something to you someday.
Dad of a beautiful little girl. Husband to an amazing woman. Son and sibling of a perfectly weird and wonderful family.